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‘LAWLESSNESS:’ Cataloguing Portland’s Year of Violence

Residents of Oregon’s most populous city dealt with unprecedented homicides, rising property crime and a general feeling of “lawlessness” during 2022, but Portland leaders have taken some steps to set a different tone for the new year.

“The rise in crime and the houseless and homeless population, that continues to be a challenge that I think the city is starting to get their arms wrapped around,” business owner Katherine Sealy told Fox News.

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The city set a new homicide record for the second year in a row, with more than 90 recorded killings so far. The city is considering a proposal to put controversial gunshot detection technology in the five most violent Portland neighborhoods, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Total violent crime increased marginally in 2022, but property crime rose 16% between January and October compared to the same period last year. Thefts, vandalism and frightening encounters with people experiencing mental health crises have prompted many businesses to leave the city.

“With the police force, overburdened people think they can do anything now,” Carol, a longtime Portland resident, told Fox News in September. “I feel like it won’t always be like this, but right now we’re in the midst of … lawlessness.”

Police response times to emergencies hit levels not seen in at least a decade, according to Portland Police Bureau data, with the average high-priority call waiting upwards of 20 minutes for a response in October. Loretta Guzman, whose café was vandalized after advertising a Coffee with a Cop event, said her customers tell her it’s like the police have “almost disappeared.”

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“They have questions like, ‘Where are the police? How come they can’t come?’” Guzman said in late October. “We used to see them all the time.”

Police have blamed the problem on staffing shortages, but the bureau may soon get some relief. There are now 804 sworn members, building back from a low of 773 in September, according to the bureau.

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The end of 2022 showed some signs of change on the horizon.

Voters ousted far-left City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in favor of the more moderate Democrat Rene Gonzalez, whose campaign offices were vandalized twice in the run-up to the election. Portlanders also voted to overhaul their government by more than doubling the number of City Council members and scrapping the city’s commission system.

And as the continuing homeless crisis pushed residents and business owners to their breaking point, the City Council in November passed a ban on street camping.

“We deal with break-ins, we deal with assaults,” Darren Marshall, the CEO of a tea company, told Mayor Ted Wheeler during a meeting of business owners last month, OPB reported. “This afternoon we had an explosion around the corner from us. Fire everywhere. That’s the world that we live in every day.”

The council approved $27 million of the city budget to create designated outdoor areas for homeless people to camp. The ban will roll out over the next year and a half as campsites are built.

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